|M.Sc Student||Shauli Sofia|
|Subject||The Effect of a Computerized Simulation on Middle School|
Students' Understanding of the Particulate Nature
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisors||Dr. Nitza Barnea|
|Ms. Luli Stern|
One of the most fundamental theories in physical science is the kinetic molecular theory. Unfortunately, while this topic is included in the middle school science curriculum and has been taught for many years, many middle and high school students have difficulties understanding this topic and hold alternative, erroneous conceptions.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of a dynamic software simulation on the understanding of the kinetic molecular theory by 7th graders.
The study consisted of two stages that differed mainly in the curriculum materials and the questions used to assess students’ understanding. Ninety-nine 7th grade students in the pilot and 133 students in the main stage of the study were involved. The students in the experimental groups (55 in the pilot and 71 in the main study) studied a curricular unit combined with a few computer lessons using the computer simulation, “A Journey to the World of Particles”. The control group (44 in the pilot and 62 in the main study) studied the same unit without the simulation. Both written questionnaires and interviews were used to evaluate students’ understanding.
The results indicate that the students in the experimental groups scored significantly better than those in the control groups. Gender differences were not observed. Furthermore, while students in both groups improved their understanding of the kinetic molecular theory, the overall achievements were very low.
These findings suggest that the computerized simulation used improved understanding of 7th graders. However, it is clear that the software alone was insufficient to promote meaningful learning. A simulation is only one instructional strategy and the many studies accumulated over the years clearly show that meaningful learning of abstract ideas in science requires the use of more diverse strategies.